Discovery riders out of action after Flanders spills

Gent-Wevelgem line-up will lack Classics specialists

Discovery Channel riders Michael Barry and Roger Hammond will both be out of action for a while after crashing in the Tour of Flanders Sunday. Barry sustained back injuries after hitting a barrier while Hammond needed 14 stitches just below his knee after the race.

Barry will be off the bike for at least two months, according to "He … went over his handlebars, landing face-first and then on his back," said directeur sportif Dirk Demol. "The last thing he said he remembers was me telling him on the radio that the roads in this town were very narrow and to be careful… He will need probably three weeks bed rest to let his back heal, and then we'll do some more scans and see how things are."

Hammond's stitches are supposed to stay in for ten days, which means it's unlikely he will ride Paris-Roubaix this weekend. "He's definitely out for Ghent-Wevelgem Wednesday," said Demol, "and while I know he's one of the really tough guys in the pro peloton, I must say it doesn't look good for him to ride Sunday at Paris-Roubaix."

With injuries limiting Discovery's options for the remaining Classics, Demol expects George Hincapie and Leif Hoste to be the team leaders for tomorrow's Gent-Wevelgem. The remainder of the team will comprise Fumy Beppu, Stijn Devolder, Vladimir Gusev, Benoit Joachim, Gennady Mikhaylov, and Matt White.

Demol also explained Discovery's tactics at Flanders, where Hoste worked with Boonen until about 1.5km from the finish. "Many people have asked, why Leif?" said Demol. "He couldn't win a sprint against Boonen. Well, I can tell you.

"When Leif attacked with 32 km left it was not supposed to have been a race-deciding effort. We were trying to break up the Quick Step grip on the front of the race. We figured a big effort could get the numbers down to maybe two of them and two of us and then we'd see how it went. Leif was surprised to see that he had only Boonen with him, and radioed back to me to see what he should do.

"I told Leif that he could cooperate but that Boonen had to take the longest pulls. I also told him that if George could bridge up, then Leif could not pull any more and he'd have to wait for George. Leif was completely happy with this plan, as was Johan [Bruyneel] when I spoke with him later. I radioed George and told him to try and drop the riders he was with and then Leif will be waiting for you. George agreed and put in a big effort on the Muur, but couldn't shake the guys he was with, and that's why Leif and Boonen went to the line 1-2."

Quick Step is undoubtedly the team to beat in the Classics, and reminds Demol of US Postal and Discovery at the Tour de France during the Lance Armstrong era. "They have the strongest man in Boonen and they have him surrounded by a very good team, world class riders like Bettini, Pozzato, Baguet and Nuyens. If you want to beat them you have to break their grip on a race, but that is also very difficult to do."

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